Weekly anb06146.txt #8

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 14-06-2001      PART #6/8

* Nigeria. Shell and others inspect Ogoni spill site - Despite warnings by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) that the Shell Petroleum Development Company should shelve the inspection visit to the Yorla oil spill site in Khana Council, the company said it went ahead with the visit unhindered. External Relations Manager East, Mr. Donald Boham described the visit as a remarkable development in the company's bid to gain access to its facilities in Ogoniland. He disclosed that the Yorla community was quite receptive to the joint team that went to the spill site yesterday. Boham said Shell and other members of the joint inspection team comprising of representatives from Department of Petroleum Resources, Federal and Rivers state ministries of environment, Khana Council chairman, representatives of the 17 communities affected by the spill and some Rivers State government officials were given a cordial reception as they were allowed access to the spill site. Boham said the technical team was able to secure well 5 and 10, saying that the company has 16 wells in Khana and with this development, it hopes to secure the remaining 14 wells soon. (The Guardian, Nigeria, 12 June 2001)

* Nigeria. Clamping down on officials' flights - The coveted trip abroad may be a thing of the past for the wives of some of Nigeria's politicians. Government officials in south-western Nigeria have been summoned before legislators to justify plans to pay for the wives of about 20 local politicians to go to London for unspecified training. Legislators in Ekiti state have condemned the proposed trip, although the state governor has said it will give the women exposure to the outside world. There are few details of what exactly the wives of local government chairmen from Ekiti state hope to achieve in London, but a leading human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has already threatened to go to court to prevent the trip. He argues that the wives are not elected officials, so they have no right to spend public money. But the women of Ekiti are not alone in their desire to learn more first-hand about how the rich democracies work. In Akwa-Ibom in south-eastern Nigeria, the entire state assembly, along with civil servants, is planning a two-week trip to the United States. Their itinerary is still vague, but an official said the people of Akwa-Ibom would be the ultimate beneficiaries. Legislators in Ondo state in the south-west have a similar plan to travel en masse to Europe. (BBC News, UK, 14 June 2001)

* Rwanda. Shocked at Arusha acquittal - The United Nations court looking into the Rwandan genocide handed down a not guilty verdict for the first time on 7 June. Ignace Bagilishema, formerly mayor of Mabanza commune in western Rwanda, was accused of being instrumental in the murder of 45,000 Tutsis. The judges said that the prosecution failed to provide enough convincing evidence. The Rwandan Government said it is shocked by the acquittal of Mr Bagilishema, who it described as one of the most "notorious" criminals from the genocide. Reading the judgement, Norwegian Judge Erik Mose spoke of the "paucity" of the evidence against Mr Bagilishema, and said that the testimonies of many of the witnesses presented against him were contradictory and unreliable. By a majority of two to one, the panel of three judges found that there was insufficient evidence to support any of the seven charges against Mr Bagilishema. Throughout the trial, Mr Bagilishema had always maintained that he had tried to protect Tutsis, but had not been able to prevent all the attacks. He was presented by his defence team as a good mayor dedicated to peaceful co-existence of Hutus and Tutsis. The prosecutor has already said that he intends to appeal against the acquittal, and has also requested that the tribunal keep Mr Bagilishema in custody for another 30 days, in case he flees or poses a threat to witnesses. The tribunal's normal procedure is for acquitted suspects to be released immediately. (BBC News, UK, 7 June 2001)

* Rwanda. Procès - A Bruxelles, dans le procès-fleuve, qui a débuté le 17 avril, contre les "quatre de Butare" accusés d'avoir participé au génocide rwandais de 1994, le jury a rendu son verdict dans la nuit du 7 au 8 juin, après plus de dix heures de délibérations. Les quatre accusés (le professeur Vincent Ntezimana, l'industriel Alphonse Higaniro, et deux religieuses bénédictines Gertrude et Kizito) ont été reconnus coupables. A la grande majorité des 55 questions posées au jury, celui-ci a répondu affirmativement, mais il s'est partagé sur certains chefs d'accusation. Les jurés ont dû ensuite se retirer encore pour fixer les sanctions que ce verdict implique. Le jugement est prononcé dans la soirée: Higaniro est condamné à 20 ans de prison, Sr Gertrude à 15 ans, Sr Kizito et Ntezimana à 12 ans. - D'autre part, le 7 juin à Arusha (Tanzanie), le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda a prononcé, à l'unanimité des trois juges, son premier acquittement au profit d'Ignace Bagilishema, ancien maire de Mabanza. Les juges ont estimé que le procureur n'avait pas fourni la preuve de sa culpabilité. Le parquet a fait appel. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 9 juin 2001)

* Rwanda. Rwandan troops claim victory - 7 June: Officers say that Rwandan troops are engaged in mopping-up operations in the north-west of the country, after claiming victory against rebel forces in fierce fighting on 6 June. Reports from the area stated that troops loyal to Rwanda's minority Tutsi community-led government had battled more than 1,000 rebels from the country's Hutu majority. Colonel Jean Bosco Kazura told the Reuters news agency that 150 rebels were killed in the clashes, with government forces deploying helicopter gunships and rocket propelled grenades. Officers say there have been no casualties on the government side. The rebels are remnants of the extremist regime toppled in 1994 after carrying out the genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were slaughtered. Exiled in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebels have fuelled instability across the Great Lakes region and central Africa. Attacks against Rwanda itself have increased in recent weeks, amidst efforts to promote the peace process in Congo. The Rwandan army says it has killed 400 rebels during the past month, said to be part of a larger force that has infiltrated border districts. 10 June: Rwanda accuses the Democratic Republic of Congo of sponsoring the recent wave of cross-border rebel attacks. Rebel activity has also intensified in neighbouring Burundi. "When the negative forces continue to fight, we know they're supported by the Congo government and its allies," Patrick Mazimhaka, Rwandan President Paul Kagame's special envoy for the Great Lakes region, told Reuters. Mazimhaka has accused Congolese President Joseph Kabila of arming and supplying the rebels in violation of a peace accord signed in Lusaka in 1999, saying he had backed the rebels to increase military pressure on Rwanda and Burundi. "There is now a plan to redeploy, not in favour of peace, but to redeploy to continue the war," he said. Kabila's government denies arming the rebels, and has in turn accused Rwanda of sending troops into Congo in violation of the Lusaka deal. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 11 June 2001)

* Rwanda/Belgium. The Brussels trial - 7-8 June: The 12 jury members reach a decision after deliberating into the early hours of the morning. The four defendants, two nuns, a professor and a businessman, on trial before a Belgian jury, are found guilty of crimes against humanity. The Prosecution has also called on jurors to help to seek justice for 800,000 victims who lie in Rwanda's mass graves. The jury was answering a complex questionnaire, which posed 55 separate questions on the guilt or complicity of the four accused. The jury delivered not-guilty verdicts for four of the 55 counts. 8 June: Sister Gertrude is sentenced to 15 years in a Belgian jail for her role in the massacre of some 7,000 people seeking refuge at her convent in southern Rwanda, and Sister Maria Kizito to 12 years. Alphonse Higaniro is sentenced to 20 years and Vincent Ntezimana to 12 years. The Court orders them to be immediately arrested. Amnesty International says it welcomes the judgement. Reed Brody, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, tells the AP: "This is a big step forward for international justice". 9 June: An official statement from the Vatican says that the Church cannot be held responsible for the individual actions of its members against the Gospel law. They must be called to render account for their own actions. At the same time, the Vatican wonders if the accused were able to make their own version of events heard, in a foreign country so far from Rwanda. (...)The Vatican cannot but express surprise in observing that a few individuals are blamed for the grave responsibilities of numerous men and groups, who were also involved in the genocide that took place in the heart of Africa. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 11 June 2001)

* Rwanda/Congo-RDC. Mouvements d'Interahamwe - Des sources proches des forces de l'ordre font état d'importants mouvements des milices Interahamwe vers le Rwanda, en provenance de l'est de la RDC. Les mouvements semblent être coordonnés et laissent supposer une certaine organisation politique et logistique. De violents combats ont éclaté, le mois dernier, au nord-ouest du Rwanda, opposant l'armée régulière aux rebelles pour la première fois depuis 1999. Des sources émanant des préfectures de Ruhengeri et Gisenyi font état d'un climat d'anxiété croissant au sein de la population. Les analystes régionaux ont signalé que les Interahamwe, les ex-FAR et les rebelles burundais quittent actuellement leurs cantonnements en RDC pour revenir dans leur pays respectif avant la mise en application de l'accord de paix de Lusaka, qui prévoit leur désarmement et leur démobilisation au Congo. (IRIN, Nairobi, 11 juin 2001)

* Rwanda. Rural poor forced to leave their homes - On 11 June, Human Rights Watch said that the Rwandan government has violated the basic rights of tens of thousands of people by forcing them to abandon their homes in rural areas and move to makeshift dwellings in government-designated sites. The government's massive plan to re-organise life in the rural areas, known as the National Habitat Policy, decreed an end to Rwandans' customary way of living in dispersed homesteads. Many homeowners are forced to destroy their own homes and many families lived for more than year in hovels made of sticks, mud and banana leaves. (HRW, 11 June 2001)

* Rwanda. Regroupements de force - L'organisation humanitaire Human Rights Watch accuse le gouvernement rwandais d'avoir forcé, depuis 1997, des dizaines de milliers de paysans à quitter leurs fermes pour des villages de fortune créés pour l'occasion. Selon HRW, "le gouvernement rwandais a violé les droits de base de dizaines de milliers de personnes en les forçant à abandonner leurs foyers dans les zones rurales et se regrouper dans des habitations de fortune sur des sites désignés par les autorités". HRW fait allusion à la Politique nationale de l'habitat, sujet déjà controversé sous le gouvernement Habyarimana. Plusieurs gouvernements rwandais ont mis en avant l'impossibilité, pour un pays pauvre comme le Rwanda, de financer l'électrification et l'adduction d'eau pour tous, alors que l'habitat traditionnel est dispersé, sans parler de l'occupation de terres fertiles des vallées par des constructions. Mais le regroupement des habitants le long des routes se heurte aux traditions. L'opposition au régime actuel y voit aussi la volonté de mieux surveiller la population. (La Libre Belgique, 12 juin 2001)

* Rwanda. Trial of the "Butare Group" begins - 12 June: The joint trial of six persons jointly charged with Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and Serious Violations of the Geneva Conventions, in what is called "the Butare Group," commenced today before Trial Chamber II composed of Judges William Sekule (Tanzania), presiding, Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho) and Arlete Ramaroson (Madagascar). The accused in the joint trial are Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Women Affairs, (the first woman to be indicted by an international criminal tribunal and the only woman to be indicted by the ICTR so far), her son and former leader the interhamwe militia, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali; former Governor of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana; former Commanding Officer of the Military Police and former prefect of Butare, Alphonse Nteziryayo; former Mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi; and former Mayor of Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. The trial began with the opening statement of the Prosecution, which gave an overview of the prominent role played by the six accused persons in the commission of the crimes in Butare, a famous religious and academic centre in Rwanda. The Prosecution told the court that it would prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused are guilty of the crimes they are charged with and are criminally responsible for their actions and those of their subordinates. The Prosecution added that it would do so through presentation of documentary evidence, and evidence from expert and factual witnesses, proving that the accused caused action, made speeches, used the media, distributed arms and trained militia, in committing the crimes. (ICTR, Rwanda, 12 June 2001)

* Rwanda. Le "groupe de Butare" en jugement - Le procès du "groupe de Butare", six anciens hauts responsables rwandais accusés d'avoir organisé les massacres de Tutsi dans cette région du Sud lors du génocide de 1994, s'est ouvert le 12 juin devant le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda (TPIR) à Arusha. Parmi eux figure la première et seule femme accusée jusqu'à présent: Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, ex-ministre de la Famille et des Femmes. Comparaissent à ses côtés son fils, Arsène Ntahobali, chef d'une milice, l'ex-gouverneur de la préfecture de Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana, l'ancien chef de la police de Butare, Alphonse Nteziryayo, ainsi que les anciens maires de Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi, et de Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. Ils sont tous accusés de génocide et de crimes contre l'humanité. (Libération, France, 13 juin 2001)

Weekly anb0614.txt - #6/8